9 ways to make the most of college and pay for tuition in 2020

Aside from the social aspects of college, the coronavirus has hindered many who rely on in-person learning opportunities. Those facing dyslexia, autism and other hurdles may suffer in terms of their education without the campus atmosphere and presence of a classroom and professor. Students enrolled for a trade that requires hands-on learning and those who have applied abroad, will have to adapt to the new and ever-changing policies according to their region.

Social experience and learning are just part of the struggle for anyone attending college or university in 2020. The financial burden of such an education is significantly increased with the conditions surrounding the economy, thanks to Covid. Students will be challenged to find adequate work, while the cost of living continues to spike, all the while trying to respect recommended restrictions.

“It’s a very anxious year. No one knows quite what’s going to happen,” Steele says. “Pandemics aren’t unprecedented but this year, from an enrolment management perspective, unprecedented unpredictability in terms of what yield is actually going to be. Who’s actually going to enroll, how many courses are they going to take? Nobody really knows, and I think the answer is different at every institution.” – Workshift Podcast. Steele continues to mention that despite the issues, the essential roles in our Covid climate are those who require a college education. Therefore, it is imperative to find a way through the haze.


College or university will undoubtedly be an unprecedented experience this year. While many aspects are different, they don’t need to have a bearing on how much fun you can have. All is not lost.

Create Your Happy Place | Whether or not you decide to live on campus this year, creating a dorm-like space is an essential part of the college experience. The great thing about a dorm is also the most challenging; space or lack thereof it. The limited square-footage of the standard dorm room has given way to creating a personalized space for rest, leisure and study. Cramming those three purposes into one tiny area is the charm that lends to a memorable experience. Infuse your personality into the decor of your bedroom. Create a cozy space for sleeping, Netflix & chilling, and curling up with a great book. You can do so by adding:

  • A blanket or throw that will provide a warm layer for reading, and a punch of colour or texture to the room.
  • A mattress topper is probably the number one investment you will want to make. A quality topper will create the extra layer of lush cushion that you will long for after a long day. It can also extend your mattress’s life, saving you a few hundred dollars that can be better spent elsewhere.
  • Pillows. Select a few throw pillows to add some fun and colour, a solid European square pillow (usually 24 x 24″) for sitting up in bed, and a tried and true sleeping pillow for catching your zzzs.
  • Art! Whether it’s abstract, classic, your favourite quote, or a humorous piece, a splash of art will bring out your unique character and create that unique atmosphere.
  • A photo wall, or designated area, will keep you connected to those you love. It will also provide an opportunity to display new experiences and connections from college life.

Make Friends | Whether or not you will be attending class virtually or in person, you must get to know your peers. Creating smaller, more intimate groups of friends will also help you make the best of your college experience. Try the following:

  • Be brave. Message your classmates individually (at least the ones you share most classes with) and introduce yourself, linking to your most up to date social profile.
  • Create a list of 20 questions as an ice breaker, or pick a “would you rather” or “this or that” off Pinterest.
  • Host a virtual party or movie night. Paperless Posthas a few ideas you might enjoy.
  • Stay safe. However, your college experience turns out this year, make sure that you are resolved to follow the recommended health and safety guidelines according to your region. The quickest way to ruin any fun you might have is with an increase of restrictions or an actual outbreak of Covid-19.

Use References and Checklists | If you are lucky enough to be living on-campus:

  • You can find great tips on bedding and hygiene from
  • You can also print out one of these handy college checklists for easy reference to college essentials. Cool Bean Livin has a checklist, especially for freshman guys. College Life Made Easy offers lists for both guys and girls as well as a slew of advice.


One thing is for certain; no one is interested in getting less out of their education with all the changes. Make your learning a priority, be honest about what you need and do your best to make the best of it.

Study Groups | With social distancing restrictions in place, one of the most challenging aspects of college life in 2020 is gathering for study groups and projects. It will take some effort, but you are sure to find a comfortable means of connecting with your peers by trying the following:

  • Break rooms. Every virtual conference platform has their way of splitting participants up into subsequent groups. The Vault offers four ways to maximize your virtual sessions.
  • Turn off the video. Sometimes all you need is to remove the visual component for a more relaxed setting. We can often get a little distracted by our own video feed, as much as that of others.

Communicate Openly with Virtual Professors | “Kapp reminds us, “your instructor is as nervous as you are. Yes, this might be your first time learning online, but it also might be your teacher’s or professor’s first time teaching online.” –

Connect with your professor in an informal but respectful capacity. Be honest in regards to your concerns and embrace open communication and feedback. Remote communication can be tricky and isn’t privileged with the familiar physical cues we rely on.

Eliminate Distractions | Set up your study area wisely. Do you work better with white noise, background music or total silence? Get yourself a reliable Bluetooth speaker, white noise app or a comfortable pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Do you tend to stare out the window or get distracted easily by your pets or family members? Make sure your study area is secluded, set up a partition or privacy screen and make sure the blinds close. Make sure your Wi-Fi connection is strong and that you have ample lighting for darker days or evening classes. Print out a schedule of when you can or cannot be disturbed and make sure your family or roommates agree to respect it.


Financing your studies is a factor in stress under “normal” circumstances, let alone under Covid circumstances. While institutions adjusting cost according to services rendered would be ideal, it’s not generally the case. Virtual courses are costing as much as they would on-campus. Don’t despair, we’ve searched for the best advice for paying for college in 2020.

Be Vocal | “If Covid-19 has led to a reduction or loss in income, especially compared to the income listed on the student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, let the college’s financial aid office know. “Be vocal,” he said.” –

Calculate the Cost | Use a student loan calculator to project expenses. Don’t put stock in the hopes of a full scholarship or even a steady paycheck. Personal finance is on rocky ground from Covid-related impacts. Save, borrow as little as possible and spend wisely.

Find Financial Support | Thankfully, there are financial resources you can rely on for help in supporting your college education. The Globe & Mail lists several financial resources available to students for the 2020-21 academic year:

  • Canada Student Grant for Full Time Students
  • Canada Student Loans
  • Bursaries
  • Scholarships
  • Canada Student Service Grant
  • Canada Emergency Student Benefit
  • Canada Emergency Response Benefit

PERSONAL FINANCE CHALLENGE | Are you choosing to attend college virtually? Do your best, according to your personal circumstances, to put aside money that you would have otherwise spent while away at college. Had you budgeted for:

  • Lunches
  • Accommodations
  • Public transport
  • On-campus extracurriculars

Keep track of what you would have spent and put it away for a rainy day. You can also consider using any savings to help pay your tuition or loans. Save wisely. 

Not sure what options your college is offering? School Finder lists Canadian colleges and universities according to the type of education they will be offering; on-campus, virtual, hybrid, etc.

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